Friday, January 29, 2021

TLC Book Tours: Betrayal at Ravenswick by Kelly Oliver

Title:  Betrayal at Ravenswick

Author: Kelly Oliver

Format: ARC

Publisher: Level Best Books

Publish Date: March 10, 2020

Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie...

What's the best way to purge an unfaithful husband?
Become a spy for British Intelligence, of course.

Desperate to get out of London, and determined to help the war effort and stop thinking about her philandering husband, Fiona Figg volunteers to go undercover.

At Ravenswick Abbey a charming South African war correspondent has tongues wagging. His friends say he's a crack huntsman. The War Office is convinced he's a traitor. Fiona thinks he's a pompous prig.

What sort of name is Fredrick Fredricks anyway?

Too bad Fiona doesn't own a Wolseley pith helmet.

My Two Cents:

When "Betrayal at Ravenswick" opens, Fiona Figg's life is in shambles. Her life, which she thought was so very stable is in shambles. It's 1914 and the war is in full force throughout Europe. Fiona copes with her newfound personal chaos by throwing herself into supporting the war effort by taking a job with the War Office as a spy. England is working to suss out traitors and Fiona is sent to trail after one. Will she get her man or will she fail?

This book was a really good opening to a new cozy mystery series. Fiona is a great character and I loved how we got to see her grow and become a lot more independent throughout the book.  At first, she is not confident in how she is going to be able to corner the suspected traitor. We see her methods and confidence grow as she finds her footing with her new and very exciting work.

I haven't delved much into cozy mysteries but they are so very perfect for winter. The book also has some really nice historical detail. Reading about Fiona's experiences with the war effort on the home front in England as well as her time in the hospitals were so interesting and I loved how the author brought those scenes to life.

The writing was overall good and kept me enthralled. There were some bits that felt a bit stiff at the beginning but once Fiona commits herself to a new cause, the book moves along well with nice pacing. 

Overall, this was a great intro to a fun new series!

About Betrayal at Ravenswick

• Publisher: Historia (March 10, 2020) • Paperback: 240 pages What’s the best way to purge an unfaithful husband? Become a spy for British Intelligence, of course. Desperate to get out of London and determined to help the war effort, Fiona Figg volunteers to go undercover. It keeps her from thinking about Andrew, her philandering husband. At Ravenswick Abbey a charming South African war correspondent has tongues wagging. His friends say he’s a crack huntsman. The War Office is convinced he’s a traitor. Fiona thinks he’s a pompous prig. What sort of name is Fredrick Fredricks anyway? Too bad Fiona doesn’t own a Wolseley pith helmet. At Ravenswick a murderer is on the prowl, and it’s not just the big-game hunter who’s ready to pounce. Reader’s Favorite Award for Best Historical Novel Social Media Please use the hashtag #betrayalatravenswick, and tag @tlcbooktours and @kellyoliverbook.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About High Treason at the Grand Hotel

• Publisher: Historia (January 5, 2021) • Paperback: 276 pages Paris. 1917. Never underestimate the power of a good hat… or a sharp hatpin. Sent by the War Office to follow the notorious Black Panther, file clerk turned secret agent Fiona Figg is under strict orders not to get too close and not to wear any of her usual “get-ups.” But what self-respecting British spy can resist a good disguise? Within hours of her arrival in Paris, Fiona is up to her fake eyebrows in missing maids, jewel thieves, double agents, and high treason. When Fiona is found dressed as a bellboy holding a bloody paperknife over the body of a dead countess, it’s not just her career that’s on the block. Her next date might be with Madame Guillotine.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About Kelly Oliver

Kelly Oliver grew up in the Northwest, Montana, Idaho, and Washington states. Her maternal grandfather was a forest ranger committed to saving the trees, and her paternal grandfather was a logger hell bent on cutting them down. On both sides, her ancestors were some of the first settlers in Northern Idaho. In her own unlikely story, Kelly went from eating a steady diet of wild game shot by her dad to becoming a vegetarian while studying philosophy and pondering animal minds. Competing with peers who’d come from private schools and posh families “back East,” Kelly’s working class backwoods grit has served her well. And much to her parent’s surprise, she’s managed to feed and cloth herself as a professional philosopher. When she’s not writing mysteries, Kelly Oliver is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She earned her B.A. from Gonzaga University and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She is the author of thirteen scholarly books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles, including work on campus rape, reproductive technologies, women and the media, film noir, and Alfred Hitchcock. Her work has been translated into seven languages, and she has published an op-ed on loving our pets in The New York Times. She has been interviewed on ABC television news, the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and various radio programs. Kelly lives in Nashville with her husband, Benigno Trigo, and her furry family, Mischief and Mayhem. Find out more about Kelly at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Monday, January 25, 2021

Review: The Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

 Title: The Yellow Wife

Author: Sadeqa Johnson

Format: ARC

Publisher: 37 Ink

Publish Date: January 12, 2021

Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "A young female slave is sold to a married man who intends to start a family with her, even as he manages the particularly cruel estate, the Devil's Half Acre, where thousands of black people are beaten, broken, and sold."

My Two Cents:

 When "The Yellow Wife" opens, Pheby is sure that life could not possibly be as bad anywhere else as it is on the plantation where she is forced to serve a difficult family. A broken promise loses Pheby her mother and lands Pheby in a decrepit jail where prisoners are treated so badly. Pheby tries to keep her head low but the owner of the jail takes a liking to Pheby and falls for her. Their relationship will never, ever be balanced but Pheby realizes that in order to preserve herself, she can try to keep her head above water by giving into this relationship (which broke my heart for her).

I've said it before and I'll say it again but one of the reasons I love historical fiction is that it can open your eyes to people and events that you've never known about. This book was so eye opening. Pheby is based on a woman named Mary Lumpkin who is forced to marry her jailer in mid-1800s Virginia, which is also where this book takes place. I never knew about the private jails and the fact that this story and the story it was based on took place not all that far away from where I am today was really fascinating. The research and detail that went into this book made this book, even with all of its difficult subject matter, compulsively readable.

Pheby is such a fantastic character. She is smart and savvy and such a survivor. She is able to do really difficult things with her eye ever on the future and how the decisions and the sacrifices she makes currently may lead to something better in the future. She is put into an unthinkable position when she is forced to marry her jailer and suddenly becomes mistress of the jail where people who look like her are thrown for no reason at all. The balancing act that she must go through in the book in order to keep going was amazing and quite difficult to read about. You are pulling for Pheby the whole time - she is amazing!

While Sadeqa Johnson is not a debut author, this is her debut historical fiction and I am so hopeful that she writes more. She took a really difficult series of events and truly brought it to life. This book has such a rich tapestry of detail and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Review: How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

Title:  How the Penguins Saved Veronica

Author: Hazel Prior

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Berkley

Publish Date: June 16, 2020

Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Eighty-five-year-old Veronica McCreedy is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. When she sees a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she tells the scientists she’s coming to visit—and won’t take no for an answer. Shortly after arriving, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. He becomes part of life at the base, and Veronica's closed heart starts to open.

Her grandson, Patrick, comes to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about."

My Two Cents:

In "How the Penguins Saved Veronica," Veronica is not exactly happy. She is in her mid-eighties and she knows the end is coming near. She has no friends except for her housekeeper, who probably mostly stays around because she gets paid. She has no family (or so she thinks) until she find out that her late son, whom she gave up for adoption, has a son who is now an adult. So Veronica decides she MUST meet him, which sets off of a chain of events that will start with disappointment and end with wonder, love, and the realization that even the grumpy Veronica can find joy!

Oh, this book was such a perfect way to start out 2021 when things still feel very much on fire. I LOVE the trope of a very grumpy character finding joy and that things really aren't that bad (these days, I sometimes feel like one of those grumpy characters). I thought this book was initially going to just be about Veronica meeting her grandson, Patrick, but this book is so much more and yes, there are really penguins. Veronica is the perfect grump: everything must be just so, she does things on her own time, and never seems to think about how others may feel. I loved how we slowly get to find out what turned her into the grump she has been for her entire life. Everything seems to fall into place. The secondary characters like Patrick and Terry, one of the penguin scientists, make for a well-rounded cast.

The best part of the book really starts after Veronica learns about the penguins in Antarctica and decides she MUST go see them. A scientific project in such a desolate place is not the greatest place to visit and definitely not a good place for a holiday. She is enchanted and I loved how we get to see Veronica almost turn giddy seeing the penguins (I cannot blame her one bit).

This is a very warm-hearted book! I loved this sweet story and it's perfect for when you are just looking for a good escape!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Just Trust Me Quick Picks

 Today, I'm introducing a new feature here. There are just some books that you need to read to believe and no review could do them justice the way just giving them a read will. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Review: Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

 Title: Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating

Author: Christina Lauren 

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publish Date: September 2018

Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?"

 My Two Cents:

"Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating" is an adorable friends-to-lovers story from the writing duo behind Christina Lauren (which are becoming some of my favorite books when I'm looking for a good romance that will leave me sighing happily). Josh and Hazel have been friends for a long time but they have never dated, it seems totally unthinkable that they would even consider it. Can really good friends ever make it as more-than-just-friends?

With as rough as 2020 was on my reading, one genre that I had considerable success with getting into was romance. With everything going on in the world, the happy endings that romances have brought me considerable joy in a year that made it so hard to focus on reading and Christina Lauren books are some of my favorites!

Hazel is a joy! She is an inexhaustible elementary school teacher with a bunch of pets (which this animal lover really liked). Josh is much more serious and while he loves Hazel, he doesn't quite get all of her chaos but he knows it comes with the territory and eventually he's more than happy to be entangled by Hurricane Hazel. I love all of the little touches that the author adds to the characters so that readers fall for them as well!

Like so many characters from other Christina Lauren books, Josh and Hazel both feel really real. The chemistry between them is palpable and even if it isn't surprising where they eventually get to with their relationship, you are cheering so hard for them the entire way. I also really loved how the authors capture such great banter between both of them: they are friends for a reason and that is clear in the way they tease each other and keep each other on their toes.

This book was a perfect pick for chasing away some of the 2020 blues!


Monday, January 4, 2021

Review: Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

 Title: Letters to the Lost

Author: Iona Grey

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Publish Date: May 25, 2015

Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "I promised to love you forever, in a time when I didn't know if I'd live to see the start of another week. Now it looks like forever is finally running out. I never stopped loving you. I tried, for the sake of my own sanity, but I never even got close, and I never stopped hoping either.

Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can't help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.

In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable attraction that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival are one in five. In the midst of such uncertainty, the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope—inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime—will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life in this powerfully moving novel."

 My Two Cents:

"Letters to the Lost" is a story told in two times: the first time is during the height of World War II and the second time is much more recent. As the story unfolds, we see how the characters in both the past and more recent time twist together. The World War II story line was much more captivating to me: a hidden love story of lovers torn apart is one of my favorite tropes and so I was so interested to see what happened between Stella and Dan and how they were first brought together so forcefully only to be torn apart.

The story unfolded fairly slowly for me at first but I read this book as a group read and it was the group that kept me going until my interest took off a little more later on in the book. The more present day story felt very much like simply a vehicle for the past story until the very end when light is shed on what happened to Stella and Dan. Jess and the other characters in the more present day story did not seem to be as well developed as the characters in the past story, which made them not nearly as interesting and those parts of the books go rather slow.

The detail in the WWII sections of the book were really great. I loved the descriptions of what the characters were doing and thinking as the world was going through such chaos around them. I loved the juxtaposition of the chaos of war and the enduring human feeling of love between Stella and Dan. It's these descriptions that make this book particularly bittersweet.

Overall, this book was good but I wanted to be more engaged with the present day story and I wanted the book to feel more balanced. Because of the ending, the present day story needed to be there but I wanted some more punch. The descriptions made this book a great treat for the historical fiction lover in me. 


Friday, January 1, 2021

Welcome, 2021!

 May your year be filled with good books, bookmarks that never get lost, no library fines, and wonderfully bookish people to discuss it all with!

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